Responses To Top Five Tasks In War On

Responses to ‘Top Five Tasks in War on Terror for 2004’

On Jan. 2, I presented “Top 5 Tasks Remaining in 2004 in the War on Terror”. I received in response some thoughtful and informed replies, and gained permission to share them here.

Military historian and former Green Beret Tom Collier writes,

I very much agree with your five top tasks, and wish that Sec State Powell had listed all five in his recent NYT op-ed.

As for SecDef Rumsfeld’s leaked memo last Fall, his complaint that we lack measurements of success in the “war against terrorism” shows how little he understands that “war.” For starters, it is *not* a war, no more than LBJ’s War on Poverty was a war. Using that emotive label clouds the reality of the struggle. The reality is that, unlike wars or football games, there will be no victory, no clock running down, no final score in this struggle against terror — and therefore no measurements of success in reaching victory.

We should have goals – the collection of intelligence, the penetration of terrorist cells, the capture of leaders, the confiscation of funds, the protection of our citizens – but not measurements and not scores and not the pursuit of victory. This struggle is a process to be prosecuted with intelligence and vigor and to be endured with patience, but it is not a game to be won or lost by a date certain [read “Election Day, 2004]. Even as we continue to maintain intelligence agencies and armed forces in peacetime, so will we have to maintain our counterterror apparatus indefinitely — smaller, maybe, as time passes but active and well oiled.

The famous leaked memo is one more indicator that we have given the leadership in countering terror to the wrong department, the one we used to call accurately the ” War Department.” Countering terror is not a war; it is in Gen Barry McCaffrey’s words a threat to be managed, and it should be managed under the leadership of our intelligence agencies.”

Middle East expert and historian John Walbridge of Indiana University writes,

“I read your list of terrorism dessiderata with interest. To it I might add

6) fixing the terrorism watchlist (see the article in today’s Wall Street

Journal) so it doesn’t pick up babies and everybody named Muhammad.

7) Having some central hot line that officials can call when dealing with

something culturally sensitive, as in deciding whether or not to detain ulama [clerics].

However, I would mostly add to your comments on Pakistan:

a) Kashmir can indeed be dealt with, preferably by a plebescite–which, the

Kashmiris being reasonable people disgusted with both sides, would probably opt

for independence. Anyway, both sides have hinted that if the US intervened,

they would–much against their will, of course–be forced to go along. We

should not neglect the value of the prestige of the United States in helping

Third World leaders agree to inconvenient necessities. It may not be palatable

for the Pakistani and Indian prime ministers to meet in Lahore or Delhi to

compromise. It’s quite another thing to huddle with the President of the

United States at Camp David and then emerge on either side of him into the Rose

Garden with the glare of the world’s TV cameras upon them and the prospect of a

reprise at the Nobel ceremonies. Anyway, while most Pakistanis wish the

Kashmiris well, they are sick and tired of the whole business.

b) If the US doesn’t want madrasas educating anti-American mujahidin, it should

do something about making alternatives available. Every Pakistani parent I

have ever met, of whatever class, is keenly aware that the key to their

children’s future is education, and they will make any sacrifices necessary to

get the best education possible for their children, preferably an education

that teaches them English. Unfortunately the possibilities are not usually

very good. Poor parents send their sons to madrasas because, occasionally, the

boys are genuinely religious or, more often, because madrasas, like American

military schools, have a reputation for being able to straighten out

troublesome boys. Mostly, however, they send their sons to madrasas because

they are free and provide room, board, and a small stipend and there are no

better alternatives, and often no other alternatives. If there were

Urdu-medium schools available and parents could afford the fees, they would

send their sons there in preference to madrasas. If there were English schools

available, that would be even better. Even in madrasas, the boys flock to

computer and English classes when they are available. If the US wants a stable

progressive Pakistan, it would behoove us to make a massive investment in

education there. It’s a lot cheaper in the long run than military intervention

in a nuclear-armed failed state. You can run a lot of schools for the four

billion a month we are spending in Iraq.

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